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NJMS Students Win Wholeness of Life Awards for Service During COVID-19 Pandemic

Eight NJMS students who went above and beyond to support families during the global COVID-19 pandemic have been chosen to receive the 2020 Wholeness of Life Award.

From the middle of April through July 4th weekend, the students, Alexandra Boni, Yerin Woo, Dan Kifner, Catharine Keim, Margaret Dalena, Janet Adeola, Scott Fabricant, and Anushka Sindkar collectively provided more than 1500 hours of spiritual care and family support through their collaboration with the University Hospital Chaplaincy team on the Virtual Family Visit program: a program that has received positive attention and respect from staff, patients, families, and even peer hospitals.

The Wholeness of Life Award is presented by the HealthCare Chaplaincy and University Hospital to honor individuals who have contributed to the quality of patient care by understanding and responding to the needs of the whole person in body, mind, and spirit.

While this award is usually made to just one person, due to the extenuating events of 2020, HealthCare Chaplaincy allowed an exception this year so that these eight NJMS students could receive this award collectively.

"I was honored to receive the Wholeness of Life Award from UH and HealthCare Chaplaincy. Helen and the rest of the spiritual care services team at UH do amazing work every day, and they went above and beyond in a really innovative way to connect patients and families during COVID-19," said Alexandra Boni, an MS-4 at NJMS. "I was the first student involved in the Virtual Family Visit program and I recruited other medical students to help out. Day to day, I facilitated the virtual visits by contacting family members and setting up the WebEx calls. I also helped write a manuscript that we hope can show other hospitals how to create programs like this themselves."

"I became involved in the Virtual Family Visits project to assist the community as much as possible during the pandemic. The positive effect that a short virtual meeting can have was just amazing. It was an honor helping patients and their families during such a difficult time in their lives," said Daniel Kifner, an MS-4 at NJMS. "I was chosen for this award for my assistance in scheduling virtual family visits between patients and their families, walking them through using the meeting software, and ensuring they did not run into any problems during the virtual meeting."

"I am so humbled to be one of the recipients of the Wholeness of Life Award," said Janet Adeola an MS4 at NJMS. "I was chosen for the award for my work with the Virtual Family Visits initiative under the leader of Chaplain, Helen Kurczynski. It was a privilege to be able to connect with families that were affected by the pandemic and contribute in a small way to their healing."

The students received their awards at a virtual ceremony, which was held on Thursday, October 29. The awards were presented by Dr. Maria Soto-Greene, executive vice dean of NJMS, and remarks were delivered by Dr. Shereef Elnahal, Rev. Eric Hall, Dr. Chris Pernell, and Chaplain Helen Kurczunski.

"We want to thank these students for their work, and for the humanism and compassion that they have shown our patients and their families," said Dr. James Hill, associate dean for student affairs. "We are so proud of each and every one of you."